Tesla’s German production facility, known as Giga Berlin, is reportedly under investigation for the illegal presence of a refrigerant tank on site. The complaint was submitted by two environmental groups that have already complained about the automaker’s presence, the Green League and Nature Protection Association, known as NABU. The Brandenburg State Environment agency will investigate the claims.
According to a report from German media outlet Tagesspiegel, Brandenburg’s State Environment Agency is investigating the suspicion of illegal construction as complaints from the two previously mentioned environmental groups state that a tank is on-site that Tesla has not been approved to have. According to the report, the tank is reportedly holding the chemical tetrafluoropropene, and Tesla does not have permission to have this on the site.
Tetrafluoropropene is used for several things but most frequently as a refrigerant for automobile air conditioners. As many as 50% of OEMs utilize it for air condition units in vehicles, according to a 2018 study from Vehicle Service Pros. The addition of the tank could mean that Tesla is preparing for vehicle production within the coming months. While CEO Elon Musk slates Giga Berlin’s initial production for the end of 2021, Brandenburg Economic Minister Jörg Steinbach has said that he expects Tesla to start manufacturing vehicles in late-Summer or early-Autumn.
Nevertheless, the tank does require approval from local agencies, and the complaint that was filed prompted an “on-site inspection” on Tuesday, according to the report. Although it took place three days ago, the Ministry of the Environment said, “The results of the control are not yet available.” The Ministry did confirm the complaint and also confirmed that the on-site inspection took place.
Tagesspiegel says the refrigerant tank provides additional risk for Tesla:
“The process is risky for Tesla because it is precisely this refrigerant tank that is related to the controversial incident problem of the Gigafactory and the early permission for machine tests, for example in the paint shop, against which the Green League and Nature Conservation Association are suing. They want to enforce a halt to the tests that the State Environment Agency had approved with what is now the 15th advance permit for the construction of the Gigafactory – parallel to the ongoing main approval process.”
The complaint is currently being handled by the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court (OVG).
Tesla has been dealing with pushback from environmental groups since Giga Berlin’s construction began in early 2020. NABU and Green League most recently objected to Tesla’s planned 4680 battery manufacturing plant in mid-June. “The objection is based on the claim that Tesla has not sufficiently clarified what precautions it will take to prevent highly poisonous gas from escaping from the factory, the objection document showed,” a report stated.
Tesla will begin production at Giga Berlin with the Model Y crossover, with the Model 3 likely following suit after manufacturing efforts are ramped.